The hike starts at the Snow Lake trailhead on Steven's Canyon Road in Mt. Rainier National Park. A mile of hiking gets you to Snow Lake and a climbers trail leads you into the upper bowl of the mountain.
From the Snow Lake trailhead, hike South one mile along the trail to Snow Lake. Continue along the West side of the lake past and up a steep valley with waterfalls cascading on both sides. Follow the valley for about 1/2 mile up a 40 degree slope into a large bowl on the Northwest side of the peak. From here you should be able to clearly make out the summit pinnacle and will understand why it is named the Unicorn.
Continue up the bowl to the saddle on the West side of the mountain. From the saddle, you will climb East up a short headwall and continue hiking to the top of the dome. Traverse behind this slightly shorter sub-summit and approach the summit pinnacle from the South side. The pinnacle can be climbed via a number of different routes ranging from 4th/ low 5th class to 5.6.
A small rack of cams and wire nuts to 2 inches would be helpful to protect this scramble to the summit. The pitch is about 40 feet so only a couple gear placements are feasible.
From the top, you can anchor a rappel from a snarled old tree or a solid rock and descend the route you came up. Round trip is 6 miles with 2500 feet elevation gain.
Summit Pinnacle Routes
|I wasn't the first person to climb these routes, therefore, I'm not entitled to name or rate them. However, for the sake of providing some clarity and information, I'll do both. Feel free to enlighten me with any information you may have that will help make these descriptions more useful.|
|1. The Roof (5.6) Start at the base of the summit pinnacle where it meets the saddle on the South side and climb a finger crack 5 feet to a chimney. Climb into the chimney and up a couple feet until you reach the roof. Then climb to the right out onto a slab and around the right side of a bulge. Walk up to the belay station at the knarled tree. 35 feet.|
Protection: You can place a 1" wired stopper in the finger crack to protect the first move. Then sling a horn in the chimney below the crux and another small wire stopper in the crack on the right side of the bulge. Unfortunately, the crux move is difficult to protect and a fall here would result in an uncomfortable pendulum into the chimney.
|2. Classic Route (5.6) Start 10 yards to the right of The Roof and climb easy cracks and ledges up and left to an old piton (you might be able to see the webbing on this pin from the ground). Continue climbing diagonally up and left to the top. |
Protection: Lots of small cracks to choose from so you can sew it up tight if you want. Wire stoppers to 2 inches are best.
| 3. Open Book Cracks (5.0) From the base of The Roof, walk down and East about 30 yards to a shallow gulley composed of a couple left leaning cracks. Climb up a couple of moves and scramble to a large ledge. From here, you can see back down the easy walk up variation. Above you will be two parallel cracks leading the rest of the way up. I recommend the crack on the left as the right crack has a slightly overhanging start. Continue up the crack to the top and walk over to the tree belay station. 50 feet. |
Protection: A 2" cam or hex will protect the first move. After that, you may want to place a few large wire stoppers in the upper crack.
| 4. Walk up Start (Class 3) Walk past the start of route #3 toward a gendarme East of the summit pinnacle to a dead tree at the base of the summit pinnacle. From the tree, you can walk up a gravelly runnel to a platform below the parallel cracks on the upper section of route 3. 20 feet. |
Protection: You probably wouldn't want to bother protecting this section until it joins with route #3 as it is super easy and not very exposed.
For early season climbs, crampons and ice axe will make the climbing easier. In fact, even in late summer and autumn, the Unicorn glacier is present and crampons allow you to climb on top of the glacier rather than traverse around it on rotten rock.
Winter climbers will have the opportunity for an excellent ski descent. Most climbers will want to rope up for the final 40 foot pitch. Rock shoes are not needed, but you will probably want to bring along a small rack of nuts, hexes, or cams to 1.5 inches as well as some bail-webbing and a rap ring for the rappel anchor.
If you have information about this route that doesn't pertain to any of the other sections, please add it here.
Additions and Corrections[ Post an Addition or Correction ]